Or sometimes it's a very big bee. Like me, you may have marveled that such a small thing as a baby can make such a big noise. Bo is generally happy but every now and then something gets his goat. Soreness at a vaccine injection site. Diaper rash. Incoming teeth. Not being allowed to touch the fire flaming forth from our gas range. Most of the time, like most babies, all it takes is a little bouncing or shhhhhh-shing or the boob or the bink. Once in a blue moon, though, he gets going and he goes.
And goes and goes and goes. I'd never shake a baby – don't shake your baby – but there have been times with both Bo and once upon a time P. during which I have suddenly understood with perfect clarity how someone could shake a baby. NOT THAT I WOULD DO IT. But I get it. I just don't do it.
So if you're suddenly in my shoes with a normally lovely baby who is driving you bonkers, what DO you do? Here's what you do:
Walk away. Seriously, put that baby down in a safe place and back slowly out of the room, close the door, and continue retreating until you have reached the distance at which the crying is no longer stabbing you in the brain. If it is an appropriate time of day, have a small glass of red wine. I'll leave the interpretation of 'appropriate' up to you. Scroll through Facebook. Walk outside and take some deep, cleansing breaths. Just take a short break. Your screaming sweetheart will be a-ok screaming solo for a few while you clear your head.
Remember it's not your baby's fault. Your baby is not trying to screw with you. Your baby is not trying to manipulate you or break your spirit. Your baby is just trying to tell you something and it's challenging because grownups speak in grownup and babies speak in baby, and baby isn't one of the options on Google Translate and babies are really bad at using computers anyway.
Accept that it's not your fault, either. Unless you've been sticking pins into your little one's bum or withholding some necessity, your baby isn't crying because of something you did. Or something you didn't do. As we have explained to P. every time Bo has been mysteriously despondent for any length of time, babies cry because they have something to communicate. And as sad as it is, we can't always figure out what that something is.
Hold your baby without expectation. If you want to do a crazy boppity hop step skip around the living room because that worked once before when all else failed, awesome. If you want to strap your baby on to your front or your back, just remember to pop in some earplugs. You cannot spoil a baby. But also remember your baby hasn't read The Happiest Baby on the block or any of the sleep training manuals so he or she may be unfamiliar with the concepts therein. So don't get PO'ed when snuggles don't stop the screaming.
Or hand your baby off to someone else for a while. Seriously. Even if you're a single parent, find a member of your village and say without shame "I cannot do this anymore." They will grasp the subtext and realize you mean 'right now' not forever. No one is going to judge you for needing to put some distance between yourself and the source of the hours of crying you've already endured. More likely, they will congratulate you for making it this far. Partners – husbands, wives, SOs, sister wives, brother husbands, etc. – will probably be your go-to here. But grandmas will do in a pinch. Of course, if you don't have anyone nearby to take over for a while feel free to go back to the beginning. Start by backing away slowly.
For real. Sometimes all it takes is an inch and a half thick door between you and the baby. No kidding. It's not elegant, but it does the trick.
What do you do when you've tried everything you can think of to comfort your baby and nothing – I mean nada – is working?